Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Confessions of an Atheist

Before I begin my long series of writings about religion, science, and other matters I thought it would be best to state who I am and what I believe. I imagine that many of my friends do not know this, but I am an atheist. I always have been. I was raised in a completely non-religious household but not an atheist household. As a child I never thought about things like how did the world come to be because I didn't care. Who would? As a kid all I wanted to do was have fun and play all day. I never talked to my parents or other relatives about their beliefs and they never talked to me about them either. I can't even remember a single conversation with any childhood friends about church or God. Thus, I was allowed to mature without anyone telling me what to believe or influencing me one way or another. For that, I'm very thankful to my parents raising me the way that they did and for my childhood to be void of any coercion about one belief system or another. In fact, it wasn't until last week that I found out that my mother is agnostic (by asking her on the phone) and I still don't know what my father considers himself.

My first true encounter with religion was around the age of 15. I had made a lot of new friends during high school and many of them were religious, attending church service every Sunday. I didn't think much of it then, but I was a little curious about it. When I was about 16, one of my closer friends invited me to come to her church with her one summer day. I happily agreed to, not because I was seeking to believe or looking for answers to life, but simply because I wanted to have that type of experience at least once. She was Catholic. I sat through the service, but I didn't really like anything about it. She invited me to come again with her next week but I told her thanks for inviting this time, but I'm really not interested in coming again. A few months later we were driving somewhere once and suddenly she asked me if I don't believe in God, what did I believe? I told her that I don't believe because I can neither see, hear, smell, touch, or taste God and that meant to me that God does not exist. If anything, I felt that in a way each person was their own God because they are in ultimate control of their own lives. She laughed at my response and called it stupid. She said I was contradicting myself. But she never (to my memory) told me why she thought it was stupid or in what way I was contradictory. I felt mildly insulted at her comment, but I quickly let it go because at that time it wasn't worth arguing about to me.

A few months after that the same girl started constantly begging me to go back to church with her. She now attended a new "cooler" church and thought I would dig it as much as she did. I repeatedly declined her request for several weeks until one day she was absolutely adamant about going together. Finally I agreed and told her "I have to be back home right after its over because I have homework I still need to finish for school tomorrow". She said that was fine. She picked me up and the two of us along with her little brother went to this new church. And it was much different. It was less formal and "holy" (for lack of a better word) and more casual and lovey-dovey. I also saw another mutual friend of ours and her family. There was a lot of hugging and touching, which I didn't particularly dislike but I found it odd to be intimate in that way with complete strangers. In the end it left a better impression on me than my first church attendance, but I still didn't really warm up to it (nor did it sway me into believing in any thing in any way). After service was over my friend then told me that there was an after-service party at the church for young people and said lets go. I told her flat out "no" because I had to go home and finish my homework. She refused to take me home, and I refused to go to the party. Eventually she just went off to the party without me and I went to wait in her truck. After half an hour or so she finally came to the truck (and it had actually started raining while I was outside waiting, how ironic). Before I could open my mouth to express my anger about the fact that she broke her promise to me, she opened hers and she was pissed at me. She was so very upset that I didn't go to her church party (and in hindsight, that party was probably the reason why she wanted me to go so badly that particular day). Well after that experience our friendship declined greatly. It was clear to me that she was just trying to convert me to her faith and that she was not willing to accept me for who I was and what I believed. There was a mutual interest for both of us in becoming more than just friends, but that had no chance of materializing after I had this experience. To this day I still keep in touch with her from time to time though.

My senior year of high school was an "awakening" of sorts for me. I had developed a really strong interest in reading, learning, and knowing as much as I possibly could. I craved knowledge immensely, and I started reading all kinds of books. In particular, I developed a strong interest in theoretical physics and studied books written by Albert Einstein and Steven Hawking. I found the subject fascinating, especially when they justified their theories with evidence and provided rational explanations for why our universe operates in the manner that it does. This is probably why I was never turned on by church sermons. The sermons never explained things, they just said "God is like this." and "You should not do that (because God said so)." But they never provided tangible evidence to support their claims or rational arguments for why a person should obey these sorts of commands. I also studied biology and genetics and other scientific topics in my spare time up through my first semester or so of college. After that, I was too busy with my classes to continue my independent studies. The same story applied for my graduate school years, and by the time I graduated in December 2006 I was too exhausted physically and mentally to hop right back into it (if you doubt me, go back and read my blog entries from around that time).

And it wasn't until mid-2008 that religion became a factor in my life again. But I'll save that for my next blog post, because that's the beginning of a much different story. Also at a later time I'll go into some of the exact reasons of why I am an atheist as well as my general thoughts about and toward other religions. Until then, enjoy the image below.


Blogger Sean Leather said...

"Prove it to me, baby!"

3:31 PM  
Blogger Jastiv said...

I'm not a math person or an atheist. I do not think it is any more logical than religious beliefs. What happens is people hear about something over and over again and then they start to believe it, be it the authority of scientists and the goodness of scientific knowledge, or a literal belief in the bible and that following church dogma is good.

7:04 AM  

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